This Year vs. Last Year

Tangential Musings (scroll down for outfits):

This time last year I was on the verge of leaving academia. After three years on the ridiculously gruelling academic job market, after multiple campus visits each of which required weeks of preparation, after months spent imagining myself taking up a variety of positions for which I’d interviewed only to be told “We liked all three candidates, but the one we chose was just a better fit for the department,” or “Could you wait another month while we negotiate with our first choice, just in case we need to default to you?” (they NEVER defaulted to me), or “The Committee went another way” (I later learned that last one was code in two separate instances for “we lost our funding and will therefore not be hiring anyone”), I was done. I’d decided that if I didn’t get this last job, I could NOT spend another year waiting for others to decide the shape and direction of my life. I was also dangerously disillusioned with academia and daydreaming of starting all over again with something entirely different.

This time last year I was waiting for one last hiring committee to reach a verdict. Time moved slowly as it always does in the academy, and I cried almost every day. Then my former supervisor phoned to say she’d been contacted for a reference and soon after, my fate was decided. Academia and I were going to stay together.

This year’s recovery from the autumn and winter teaching terms is not as dramatic as last year’s. I felt the need to remind myself of this simple, but important fact. Thanks, StyleNation, for tuning in.

I also feel the need to offer the following to those of you who are still looking for academic jobs. Here is what I learned from this always challenging, sometimes invigorating, often frustrating, and occasionally heartbreaking experience:

1. Know yourself well enough to anticipate how you will deal with both success and failure in any given search. Prepare accordingly.

For example, I discovered that I need to work to believe that Plan A, the actual getting of the job, could really happen. But I always need a Plan B, Plan C, and even sometimes a Plan D in place so that I know how to deal if I don’t get the job. For me, success is easy to deal with but sometimes difficult to imagine. Failure is easier to imagine and to deal with if I can map out ways to make myself believe failure in one venue is an opportunity in another.

2. Apply for every job for which your credentials make you a real candidate. Put most of your energy into these applications. Then apply for ALL other jobs that might be a bit of a stretch for you. Who knows? Once you stretch, you might find it was exceptionally worthwhile to do so.

For example, I stretched and now work in a department that seems to fit me and my work much better than I would initially have imagined possible. In fact, I can no longer imagine myself doing the work I first thought I wanted to do.

3. Decide how long you can stand to be on the job market, waiting for others to decide your fate. Add at least one more year, if your budget, brain, and body can afford it. Then think about the next item:

4. Remember that life exists outside of academia and that you might be happy out there. You might even be HAPPIER out there. And despite the specialization inherent to your degree, your PhD has also given you many transferable skills.

5. Choose and prepare your interview attire early in the job market season. It sucks to shop for clothes when you should be prepping your research talk and practicing answers to questions.

Outfit post begins here: 

I’m all typed out, so I’ll just note that this is what I wore for my last two days of contact with students this term. (E-Jo & are are doing an unintentional black-and-cream pattern theme week)

Cardigan: Kische (remixed)
Blouse: ?? (remixed)
Not-quite-discernable bracelet: gifted
Pleather pants: Tahari (remixed)
Boots: Fluevog (remixed from same post as pants)

Bare legs for the first time in 2011. Also, this is the last almost-picture of my too-light-for-this-time-of-year hair colour. This issue has now been remedied and I will report on same later:

Cardigan: Nygard (very old, remixed)
Necklace: crazy costume jewellery shop in Florida
Dress: Cleo (remixed)
Boots: Rieker (remixed)
Socks: who cares?
Is this spring better or worse than last spring for you? 
What were you doing last year at this time? (And what were you wearing, then?)

30 thoughts on “This Year vs. Last Year

  1. So I wrote this awesome comment in a coffee shop on Wednesday, and the free wifi crapped out. Now I am back in Brooklyn and your words are still super smart. I'm so glad that you hung in there the extra year and got the gig you have. I was VERY lucky to get a job my first year out. I think I was probably a bit of a stretch for my job, but it worked and I am happy. The big difference between now and last spring is that I feel more happy, confident and settled in my job (I have a bad case of imposter's syndrome, that dreaded gendered phenomenon). However, as tenure standards rise and remain unclear, I still keep Plans B-Z in my mind (some of them seem like fun. Luckily, I'm adventurous). Also, way to rock the leather pants and bare legs! I can't wait to see the remedied hair color (or colour as you crazy Northerners might say).

  2. Point #2 is very well said. I've sat on enough hiring committees to know. A year ago this time, I was swamped with grading, as I have been for the past two weeks. After twenty years in academia, it has begun to feel like the "same old."

  3. Probably something funny to kick things off – a farce. I did two farces in college and everybody just loved them. But after that I'd like to try some really neat things like studies on social behavior. My friend teaches high school theater and they did Night of the Living Dead.

  4. Dude. You totally get a pass. Also, umm, thanks. (recall that I am awkward with any unironic expression of emotion)Also, here's to no more academic rejections for you. It's so much better to the rejectee than the rejected, don't you think?

  5. Here's to that oh-so-important difference! (If I were at home right now, I'd be imaginary clinking your imaginary glass with my glass. Which would be filled with delicious wine-from-a-box.)

  6. Glad to hear you're in a better place this spring! Academia sure sounds rough at times. This spring is a lot better for me too. Last year at this time, Fella was in and out of the hospital having surgeries, which sucked for him but was incredibky stressful for me. Which explains why I was on a blogging hiatus at the time. And now Fella's healthy and we've resumed a normal-ish life. What a difference a year makes, huh?but on to your outfits – damn those pants look good! And yay for bare legs!

  7. Ooh, fun. This time last year I was finishing up my MA research paper and feeling like it was never going to end. I swore that I would give myself a break, but was also feeling a bit terrified of the plan-less vacuum that was the future. A year later, I sit here with a fulfilling job that I am also about to leave. Springs always mean gearing up for change; I suppose that's what I get for being in school for most of my life and now working for one! I'm definitely feeling better, healthier and more confident than I felt this time last year. I think blogging also played a part in making this year better. Hoorah!

  8. Such a coincidence: I was just thinking this morning about how amazing you are for hanging in there, for giving it that one last year and one last try and one last go. I am so proud of you! Yes, that's corny, but I am enormously pregnant so I get a pass. You are also amazing for rocking the pleather pants in a professional context.Last year I had a waist, so I was wearing something with a waist. Oh, and going through my last round of academic job market rejections.

  9. I honestly could never be in academia beyond what I'm doing now – grad recruiting/academic advising. I've watched my best friend and her husband struggle the same way as you have. It's so hard on them. Granted, they're amazing and courageous and brave – every year they go from one one-year position to another. Nothing turns out to be full time forever tenure just around the corner. Having said that, there is a part of me that would love to teach high school (I know, not the same) theater. LOL Or community college theater. It's my first love, my first bachelors, and maybe I'll return to my roots some day. Who knows.Kudos to you for not giving. Never give up.

  10. I've got nothing on the requested front – not because I've not lost grant dollars (or failed to get them at all), but because I've no solutions for same. Perhaps others have some expertise to share? Anyone? Anyone?

  11. Excellent advice – can I put in a request for dealing with the loss of grant dollars in academia? The conservatives have done nasty things to discovery research grants in the sciences and my partner has been feeling the pain. Great outfits, I love those brown boots!

  12. Mrgh. This is going to happen to my excellent research technician too, unless I can save her bacon with a last-ditch emergency money-getting strategy, which does not look too likely in the current craptacular research funding climate. I am sorry.

  13. Do you think? Even the part about waiting another year or two before throwing in the towel? You don't think academics are the only crazies who keep hoping against hope? (Well, us and the writers.)

  14. Timely words, m'lady, timely words. I just found out today that a big grant we were hoping to get we will not be getting, and with those words comes the fact that in two months I won't have a job anymore. I'm stunned, and not sure what to do, but now comes the time to reevaluate plans B-Z again…

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